The demand for hops has put home brewers in the back seat, and growing hops may be a great alternative. Acreages are contracted by large breweries with buying power. There are hops brokers that lie in between the hops growers and smaller breweries and home brewers. This chain in the market leaves higher prices and lower quality for the home brewers which are at the tail end of the chain.
With the right conditions hops can grow like a monster in many different regions. At the same time hops has an Achilles heal, which is its sensitivity to pests, mold, and fungus. Growing hops is unlike any other plant a home gardener or even small farmer can nurture. They love water, can grow up to 30 feet in a year, and require special trellises or arbors to climb and conquer. They require yearly maintenance and unique care for assuring a good crop for the given year, and for planning for the next. The very good news is that with the right attention, home grown hops can supplement or even replace paying for high-priced hops from the market. And can offer different varieties due to shortages of certain strains.
Hops is formally known as Humulus Lupulus. Learn about the origin, plant structure and propagation of hops.
Hops love to grow. They need good placement with lots of room to stretch and crawl along a trellis, arbor or support. You can use your house, trees, fence lines, and simply rope to support the bines from the day the shoots are ready to grab onto something.
Whether you are working with hops seeds, rhizomes, plants or existing hops plants from previous years preparation is needed. It is important that the area is prepared for both nutrients and water throughout the year.
Hops will shoot into spring with the best of them. The early hops shoots need training, selection and pruning.
Hops have been bread through the years to be resistant of common mildews. But not all have this character, and its important to select strong growers that will prevail through the spring, summer and fall.
Hops will begin to develop lateral branches and burrs that form cones during the summer. These cones will evolve into oil-rich aroma bombs. Testing the hops regularly for harvesting is important as proper maturity is needed to ensure the strongest aroma and flavor.
Hops cones will mature at different times for a single plant. The weight of the cones at this time is mostly water. After they are picked they should be dried carefully, then stored.
Hops will come right back up the following spring. Taking care of the plant prior to the colder months will help to ensure a strong entry into spring. The bine should be cut down the crown and covered properly.
Watch the progress of hops planting, training and harvest in a hopumentary series.